2007 Wisconsin Badgers

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Wisconsin Badgers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews


2007 Wisconsin Badgers

2007 Recap: The next-best-thing to Michigan in the Big Ten before the season began, Wisconsin never quite fulfilled expectations in 2007.  The Badgers finished in fourth place in the league, going a perfect 7-0 at Camp Randall, but managing just two wins in six tries outside Madison, including a 21-17 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.  Although injuries to receivers Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard hurt the offense's development, an overrated defense had no excuses for allowing more than 30 points six times, and creating a mere 19 turnovers in 13 games.  

Offensive Player of the Year: TE Travis Beckum

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Matt Shaughnessy

Biggest Surprise: RB Zach Brown.  Thrust into action as a true freshman after P.J. Hill suffered an injury, Brown gave the Badgers an instant jolt of depth in the backfield.  Rather than redshirting, as hoped, he rushed for 568 yards and five touchdowns, playing an integral part in the team's wins over Michigan and Minnesota.

Biggest Disappointment: The defense.  Loaded with returning starters, the Badgers were a shell of the team that was so dominant on defense in 2006.  Wisconsin allowed twice as many points as a year ago, had problems getting to the quarterback, and didn't create enough takeaways.  On Sept. 15, Wisconsin gave up 31 points and 377 yards to The Citadel, an early warning sign for the unit.  

Looking Ahead: Although forecasters will surely be a little more cautious with the Badgers this season, there are enough regulars returning for them to make a serious push for a Big Ten championship.  First, however, Bret Bielema must decide if senior Allan Evridge is his starting quarterback, or if one of the more untested signal-callers is prepared to win the job.
- 2007 Badger Preview 
2006 Badger Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Wash State W 42-21
Sept. 8 at UNLV W 20-13
Sept. 15 The Citadel W 45-31
Sept. 22 Iowa W 17-13
Sept. 29 Michigan State W 37-34
Oct. 6 at Illinois L 31-26
Oct. 13 at Penn State L 38-7
Oct. 20 Northern Illinois W 44-3
Oct. 27 Indiana W 33-3
Nov. 3 at Ohio State L 38-17
Nov. 10
Michigan W 37-21
Nov. 17 at Minnesota W 41-34
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1 Tennessee L 21-17

Jan. 1 
2008 Outback Bowl
Tennessee 21 ... Wisconsin 17

Wisconsin was marching on a final drive with a chance to win the game, but Antonio Wardlow picked off a Tyler Donovan pass on the five-yard line in the final minute to seal the win for the Vols. Tennessee held a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter on two Erik Ainge touchdown passes and a three-yard Gerald Jones scoring run, but Wisconsin pitched a shut out the rest of the way. The Badger offense got a six-yard Donovan run and a four-yard Andy Crooks catch, but couldn't get in the end zone in the second half with Taylor Mehlhaff hitting a 27-yard field goal late in the third and the Vol D holding on a key fourth down play. Down four with under six minutes to play and on the Tennessee ten, the Badger chose to go for it on fourth and two and missed as Donovan, under pressure, threw his pass to Travis Beckum through the end zone. The Badgers had to go for a late touchdown instead of getting in field goal range for Mehlhaff.
Offensive Player of the Game: Tennessee QB Erik Ainge completed 25 of 43 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns
Defensive Player of the Game: Wisconsin LB Jonathan Casillas made ten tackles, four tackles for loss and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 25-43, 365 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Montario Hardesty, 7-35. Receiving: Josh Briscoe, 7-101, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-24, 155 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
P.J. Hill, 16-132. Receiving:
Garrett Graham, 7-75
Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the Outback Bowl ... Erik Ainge was phenomenal on third downs for about three quarters. While the Tennessee offense struggled to keep drives going late in the second half, it finished converting nine of 18 third down chances and killed any Badger defensive momentum time and again... Where were the carries for P.J. Hill? While the Badger rushing star wasn't quite 100%, he was effective every time he touched the ball, and even showed a burst of speed with a 50-yard run. The Wisconsin offensive line got into a lather and was fantastic when it could line up and blast the Tennessee defensive line on rushing plays, but the Badger offense went away from the ground game in too many key spots. ... Tennessee got a pass rush, with three sacks and several big hits on Tyler Donovan, and Wisconsin didn't lay a finger on Ainge for long stretches. That proved to be the difference. ... The Tennessee defensive line had great stretches, but every time the Badgers wanted to run the ball, tackle Kraig Urbik and guard Andy Kemp steamrolled the right side. However, Badger left tackle Gabe Carimi had a rough game.

Nov. 17
Wisconsin 41 ... Minnesota 34
Wisconsin rumbled for 325 yards and got 250 yards and two touchdowns from Zach Brown, but its defense gave up yards just as quickly as Minnesota ripped off 501 yards and wouldn't go away. A one-yard Bill Rentmeester touchdown run and a 16-yard Travis Beckum catch seemingly put the Badger comfortably ahead by 14 in the fourth quarter, but the Gophers kept coming back as Adam Weber connected with Eric Decker for the second time on the day for a score, and after a four-yard Brown scoring run, hit Ralph Spry on a 71-yard touchdown to pull within seven with less than five minutes to go. Minnesota had one last shot, but Weber was picked off by Ben Strickland to stop the shootout.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB Zach Brown ran 29 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 21-37, 352 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Adam Weber, 15-87. Receiving: Ernie Wheelwright, 7-92
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 6-13, 114 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Zach Brown, 29-250, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 5-89, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It seemed like the Badgers, who had mega-problems with spread offenses earlier in the year, mentally letdown a bit against the Gophers. With all the injuries, and after the win over Michigan, they could be forgiven for not taking the 1-10 Maroon & Gold lightly. In the end, the offensive line, and the running of Zach Brown, took over, and the defense did just barely enough to never let Minnesota take control. While winning Paul Bunyan's axe might be nice, the coaching staff needs to learn its lesson against the spread attack going into next year.

Nov. 10
Wisconsin 37 ... Michigan 21
Wisconsin outgained Michigan 237 yards to 47 on the ground with Zach Brown rushing for 108 yards and touchdown runs from six and two yards out, with both scores putting the game away late in the fourth quarter. Playing without Mike Hart, and with Chad Henne leaving the game early, Ryan Mallett stepped in and bombed away, hitting Mario Manningham on a 97-yard touchdown, the longest pass play in Michigan history, along with a 12-yard scoring pass. A 26-yard touchdown catch from Adrian Arrington pulled the Wolverines within two midway through the fourth, but the Badger ground game went to work to close it out. The Badgers held on to the ball for 38:15, and over 21 minutes in the second half.
Player of the game: Wisconsin DE Matt Shaughnessy made seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Michigan - Passing: Ryan Mallett, 11-36, 245 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Carlos Brown, 9-38. Receiving: Adrian Arrington, 7-101, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-27, 245 yds, 1 TD
Zach Brown, 27-108, 2 TD. Receiving: Paul Hubbard, 7-134

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Michigan might have been without its two big stars, but the Badgers were without P.J. Hill, DT Jason Chapman and CB Allen Langford. Shane Carter did a tremendous job on the other side of Jack Ikegwuonu, who had a nice day on Mario Manningham despite the two big touchdown catches from the Wolverine star. With this win, now the Badgers have a layup against Minnesota for a more-than-respectable 9-3 season, and a chance to get to a New Year's Day bowl game if everything breaks right. More likely, the Badgers are now off to the Alamo.

Nov. 3
Ohio State 38 ... Wisconsin 17
It was a tighter game than the final score would indicate. Wisconsin took a 17-10 lead on a two-yard Chris Pressley touchdown run late in the third quarter, and then Chris Wells and the Ohio State running game took over. Wells took off on touchdown runs of 31, 30 and 23 yards in the final 18 minutes as the Buckeyes made a big scare a blowout with a dominant fourth quarter. Todd Boeckman and Brian Robiskie hooked up for two scores, the first coming on a 30-yard pass in the first quarter to start the scoring, and an eight-yard play in the fourth to pull comfortably ahead. OSU came up with ten sacks, and James Laurinaitis had 19 tackles.
Player of the game: Ohio State RB Chris Wells ran 21 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns, and LB Jim Laurinaitis made 19 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and recovered a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Ohio State - Passing: Todd Boeckman, 17-28, 166 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Chris Wells, 21-169, 3 TD. Receiving: Brian Hartline, 7-95
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 17-29, 238 yds, 2 TD
Zach Brown, 20-63. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 9-140, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Badgers didn't have enough ammunition, and as the Ohio State game went on, they didn't have enough players. UW usually does the beating up, but it was pounded on by the No. 1 Buckeyes and weren't able to protect QB Tyler Donovan. The cutback runs were the biggest problem, with Chris Wells finding wide-open lanes in the fourth quarter to take the game over. Will everyone be healthy in time to face Michigan? Probably not, so it'll be up to Donovan, who had a nice day despite all the sacks, to be even sharper.

Oct. 27
Wisconsin 33 ... Indiana 3
Indiana turned it over five times and was held to 258 yards of total offense and just a 49-yard Austin Scott field goal, while Wisconsin rolled without a problem from the start. P.J. Hill ran for a one-yard score, but got hurt on the play and was out for the game. Lance Smith and Zach Brown picked up the slack. Brown took it in from six yards away for 17-0 first half lead, and Smith ran for scores from six and 19 yards out. The Badgers held on to the ball for 35:23.
Player of the game: Wisconsin LB Jonathan Casillas made 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Indiana - Passing: Kellen Lewis, 17-33, 113 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Marcus Thigpen, 11-70. Receiving: Andrew Means, 9-66
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 12-21, 144 yds, 1 INT
Lance Smith, 15-79, 2 TD. Receiving:
Kyle Jefferson, 3-50
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Over the last two weeks against Northern Illinois and Indiana, the Badger offensive line has played night-and-day better than it did over the first seven games of the season. The defense is starting to tackle better, and did a great job of keeping IU QB Kellen Lewis in place and James Hardy from getting into the flow of the game. IU is a team that seemed like it would've given the Badgers a nightmare of a time earlier in the season, but now, this is a different UW team just in time for the trip to Ohio State.

Oct. 20
Wisconsin 44 ... Northern Illinois 3
Wisconsin thoroughly dominated the Huskies, outgaining them 331 rushing yards to -13, 20 first downs to 6, and only allowed a 34-yard Chris Nendick field goal late in the third quarter. P.J. Hill tore off a 72-yard run in the first quarter, and added a one-yard score in the third, while Chris Pressley and Lance Smith each ran for short second quarter touchdowns. Garrett Graham caught a 25-yard touchdown pass on UW's opening drive to start the blowout.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 21 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught a pass for seven yards
Stat Leaders: Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 11-19, 91 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: P.J. Hill, 21-184, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 4-25
Northern Illinois - Passing: Ryan Morris, 3-8, 68 yds, 1 INT
Justin Anderson, 13-14. Receiving: Matt Simon, 4-86

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Now that's what Wisconsin has been waiting all year for. Northern Illinois is a bad team, just like UNLV, The Citadel and Iowa, and the Badgers drilled it into the ground from the get go in a blowout win. After the last two weeks, with losses to Illinois and Penn State, and with a dangerous date with Indiana ahead followed up by Ohio State and Michigan, just getting a cathartic blasting was exactly what UW needed. The only question was why P.J. Hill got 21 carries in such an obvious yawner. He doesn't need any more of a pounding this late in the year.

Oct. 13
Penn State 38 ... Wisconsin 7
Penn State dominated from the word go, forcing a P.J. Hill fumble on Wisconsin's first carry, and converting three plays later with a one-yard Matt Hahn touchdown run. The Badgers closed it to 10-7 at the end of the first quarter on a one-yard Hill run, but did nothing else the rest of the day, as Penn State scored the final 28 points on a 29-yard Deon Butler touchdown catch, a 19-yard Evan Royster scoring run, and short scored from Rodney Kinlaw and Daryll Clerk.
Player of the game: Penn State QB Anthony Morelli completed 16 of 28 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 16-29, 220 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: P.J. Hill, 19-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Kyle Jefferson, 6-124
Penn State - Passing: Anthony Morelli, 16-28, 216 yds, 1 TD
Rodney Kinlaw, 23-115, 1 TD. Receiving: Deon Butler, 7-93, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Wisconsin has fallen into a bad pattern it has to get out of in a big hurry. The lines are getting their buts kicked, so there's no running game and no interior defense to stop the run. Thanks to injuries, the receiving corps is thin and young, yet the offense no relies on Tyler Donovan bombing away. While that's fine at times, there has to be a balance. Wisconsin is only Wisconsin when it's pounding the ball, and right now this doesn't appear to be a team that's able to inflict it's will on anyone with a pulse.

Oct. 6
Illinois 31 ... Wisconsin 26
Illinois ran for 310 yards, with Rashard Mendenhall getting 160 of them, with scoring runs from 32 and five yards out, but it was a nine-play, 71-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, finishing up with a five-yard Eddie McGee score, that put the game out of reach. The Badgers, battling with a banged up P.J. Hill, fought back through the air, getting a nine-yard touchdown catch from Garrett Graham with 1:31 to play, but they couldn't get the ball back, failing to get the onside kick, and failing to come up with a stop on fourth and short. Mendenhall also caught a five-yard touchdown pass, while Wisconsin got 392 passing yards from Tyler Donovan and two touchdowns.
Player of the game: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall ran 19 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and caught four passes for 33 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 12-19, 121 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Rashard Mendenhall, 19-160, 2 TD. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 5-51
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 27-49, 392 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
P.J. Hill, 21-83, 1 TD. Receiving:
Travis Beckum, 11-160
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The stunning aspect of the loss to Illinois was how the lines got bullied. The Badger offensive front five was great in pass protection, but didn't get any consistent push for the running game. On the other side, when Illinois wanted to get a few rushing, it got them. The defense spends far too much time tackling the ball without results, failing to force any turnovers. UW will be kicking itself for losing this game, but it also showed just how far the defense has to go before it reaches last year's level.

Sept. 29
Wisconsin 37 ... Michigan State 34
In what was supposed to be a bit of a defensive slugfest, the two teams combined for 1,025 yards of total offense with several huge plays. The Badgers hung on, as MSU PK Brett Swenson missed a 53-yard field goal late, and later had a chance to drive deep, but misfired on a fourth down pass. The Spartans got 145 rushing yards, and 88 receiving, from Javon Ringer, who set up two, two-yard Jehuu Caulcrick touchdown runs. The two teams traded haymaker after haymaker, highlighted by a second quarter stretch when MSU answered a 64-yard Kyle Jefferson touchdown with an 80-yard Devin Thomas touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. Donovan threw two touchdown passes and P.J. Hill added two short scoring runs, but it was Taylor Mehlhaff's field goals from 35, 47 and 22 yards that helped the Badgers stay ahead.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 34 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Michigan State - Passing: Brian Hoyer, 22-36, 323 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Javon Ringer, 10-145. Receiving: Javon Ringer, 7-88
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 17-24, 247 yds, 2 TD.2 INT
P.J. Hill, 29-155, 2 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 10-132, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Wisconsin's offensive line did a surprisingly great job against the tremendous Michigan State defensive front, with the most physical performance the front five has played all year. However, the defense had yet another poor tackling game, and there has to be a big concern for the Illinois game next week that there have been way too many big plays allowed. The offense needs the receivers back. Injuries and other problems meant the Badger passing game was all Travis Beckum. The team keeps on winning, but eventually, the breaks won't go the right way if it keeps playing like this.

Sept. 22
Wisconsin 17 ... Iowa 13
After an ugly first 26 minutes, things got interesting in a hurry. Wisconsin answered an Iowa 41-yard Daniel Murray field goal with a seven-play, 72-yard drive in 1:39 that finished with a three-yard Travis Beckum touchdown catch, but only after a scramble for a fumble in the end zone a few plays earlier, and an apparent Badger score, got called back because of an inadvertent whistle. Iowa answered in 32 seconds as
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos made a one-handed 21-yard grab for a 10-7 halftime lead. The Badgers took control of the second half with a big opening drive finished off with a two-yard P.J. Hill touchdown run, and got up by four late on a Taylor Mehlhaff field goal. Iowa had one last shot, but QB Jake Christensen overshot a wide open receiver on fourth down.
Player of the game: Wisconsin P Ken DeBauche had eight kicks for 381 yards, averaging 47.6 yards per kick, putting two inside the 20
Stat Leaders: Iowa - Passing: Jake Christensen, 17-37, 169 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Albert Young, 10-33. Receiving: James Cleveland, 4-77
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 12-23, 138 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
P.J. Hill, 29-113, 1 TD. Receiving: Travis Beckum, 4-18, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is Wisconsin playing down to its competition, or is it simply confident in what it does? Fine, so the plan is to play good defense, get good special teams, and let the running game take over in the second half, but against Iowa, once again the offensive line had problems with a quick defensive front, and the defense struggled to make tackles and made too many mistakes. That the Hawkeyes didn't connect on a few big plays, especially on their final throw that would've gone for a touchdown, was a stroke of luck. Now comes the Michigan State defensive line, which will be in the backfield all game long unless the O line changes things up on long passing plays.

Sept. 15
Wisconsin 45 ... Citadel 31
P.J. Hill ran for four touchdowns and caught an 11-yard pass for a fifth as Wisconsin's offense had no problems in the win. The defense was another story, getting moved on at will in the first half as Duran Lawson threw three touchdown passes, including a 19-yard strike to Tory Cooper to tie it at 21 just before halftime. The Badger D clamped down in the second half as the offense reeled off 24 straight points before the Bulldogs scored ten points in the final 5:03.
Player of the game: Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 25 times for 168 yards and four touchdowns and caught two passes for 20 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Citadel - Passing: Duran Lawson, 23-35, 254 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Tory Cooper, 15-63. Receiving: Tory Cooper, 5-89, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-20, 201 yds, 2 TDs
P.J. Hill, 25-168, 4 TDs. Receiving: Luke Swan, 5-76
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UNLV's spread offense didn't work against the Badger defense last week, but The Citadel sure moved the ball well in the first half this week. Wisconsin's defensive front seven was fooled on just about every play as the Bulldogs did a great job of getting in space. That stopped in the second half, but by then, the image damage had been done. A top five-caliber team isn't supposed to give up 31 points to The Citadel; the defense isn't playing anywhere near as well as it did last year. With another big week, P.J. Hill showed he might be the most valuable player in America. The defense was great against UNLV, the offense was terrific against Citadel, and now the team has to put everything together against Iowa.

Sept. 8
Wisconsin 20 ... UNLV 13
Wisconsin avoided the monumental upset thanks to a Tyler Donovan 29-yard bootleg run, capped off with a dive into the end zone, for a lead in the final two minutes. UNLV had one last shot, but turned the ball over on downs after a tough performance. The Rebels started off the scoring with a five-yard Casey Flair touchdown catch, and Sergio Aguayo nailed two field goals, with his 35-yarder giving them the lead midway through the fourth. But the Badgers would rally with a pounding ten-play, 61-yard drive finishing with the Donovan dash. UW's other touchdown came on a three-yard Garrett Graham catch in the second quarter, but the extra point attempt was bobbled. UW PK Taylor Mehlhaff made up for it by adding field goals from 27 and 51 yards out.
Player of the game ... Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill ran 30 times for 147 yards and caught two passes for ten yards
Stat Leaders: UNLV - Passing: Travis Dixon, 23-36, 258 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Frank Summer, 8-25  Receiving: Casey Flair, 10-126, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 14-26, 138 yds, 1 TD
P.J. Hill, 30-147  Receiving: Travis Beckum, 6-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Badgers didn't appear to have much life on offense against UNLV until the final drive. There were too many three-and-outs, too many third and longs, and not enough protection for QB Tyler Donovan. When push came to shove, the Badgers shoved its way to the game-winning drive, with Tyler Donovan coming up with the touchdown run that finally got the team bouncing. This might serve as a wake up call, or it might have exposed the Badgers a bit on the offensive line. This is a fast team, but it struggled against the small, quick Rebel defensive front. The defense was better than it might get credit for having kept the Rebels out of the end zone in the final three quarters. It stiffened when it had to.

Sept. 1
Wisconsin 42 ... Washington State 21
Washington State's offense appeared unstoppable on the way to a 14-7 first quarter lead after two 80-yard scoring drives, and then the Badgers took over with 21 straight points to take the lead for good. After a seven-yard Brandon Gibson touchdown catch to pull the Cougars to within seven as the fourth quarter started, Wisconsin rolled for two touchdowns to pull away on P.J. Hill's second touchdown of the game and a one-yard Tyler Donovan sneak. Luke Swan caught touchdown passes from five and 38 yards for the Badgers.
Player of the game ... Wisconsin WR Luke Swan caught eight passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Washington State- Passing: Alex Brink, 17-27, 171 yds, 1 TDs
Rushing: Dwight Tardy, 21-96, 1 TD  Receiving: Brandon Gibson, 6-82, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Tyler Donovan, 19-29, 284 yds, 3 TDs
P.J. Hill, 21-84, 2 TDs  Receiving: Luke Swan, 8-170, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It's not a bad thing when you don't play well and still end up winning by 21, and it's hard to lose when you go 11 of 15 third down conversions. Wisconsin couldn't tackle against Washington State and had a nightmare of a time in the punt return game, but the offensive line took over and gave Tyler Donovan plenty of time to work. Luke Swan was terrific as the main target who'll force defensive coordinators to spend time not focusing on the running game and TE Travis Beckum. The emergence of speedy RB Lance Smith should be a huge help spelling P.J. Hill.

Sept. 1 - Washington State
Offense: Washington State won't abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that's traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they're overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He'd like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that's been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there's hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there's a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there's no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Sept. 8 – at UNLV
Offense: The Rebel Shotgun Spread has basically misfired over the first two seasons, but the potential is there for a huge turnaround. QB Rocky Hinds, a disappointment in his first season after coming over from USC, played with a torn ACL almost all season, and now he'll be healthy. He'll have a loaded receiving corps to work with led by Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe, but all eyes will be on Aaron Straiten on the outside. The star JUCO transfer of last year has million-dollar talent, but now he needs to use it. The emergence of Frank Summers as a powerback should help out the running game, which already has speed -rusher David Peeples, but the offensive line has to do more to pave the way.
Defense: The defense struggled way too much to get a stop early in games, and it forced the offense to press way too often. Now there should be a bit of an improvement with several good returning starters and a fearsome pass rush. The ends should be terrific, and the linebackers can all move, but the emphasis going into the year will be to stop the run. Are the defenders in place to do it? That remains to be seen, but the biggest concern will be with a secondary that didn't make nearly enough plays last year, and now it doesn't have Eric Wright.

Sept. 15 – The Citadel

Sept. 22 - Iowa
Offense: The Jake Christensen era starts after four years of the Drew Tate regime, but backup quarterback Arvell Nelson is a terrific prospect who could push hard this fall. With the 1-2 rushing punch of Albert Young and Damian Sims, the ground game will be strong if the questionable offensive line pulls out a better season than last year (when injuries were a major problem). Dominique Douglas and Andy Brodell are emerging targets, and they'll shine with a passer like Christensen winging it. As good as Christensen might be, the offense will try to run first.
Defense: You basically know what you're getting with the Iowa defense. It's not going to do anything fancy, it's not going to bring any funky blitzes, and most teams should be able to get yards through the air without a problem. However, everyone can hit and there are few mistakes made. Eight starters return, led by end Ken Iwebema and one of the Big Ten's best lines, while the replacements for the departed starters are good. Forcing more turnovers, making more plays behind the line, and generating more pressure are all vital to coming up with a better year.

Sept. 29 - Michigan State
Offense: In keeping with the overall belief system of the new coaching staff, the offense will try to become more physical and should play to the strength, which will be running the ball. The line is big, and now has to start hitting to open things up for the speedy duo of Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson and the pounding Jehuu Caulcrick. All eyes will be on Brian Hoyer, who might not be Drew Stanton talent-wise, but should be a more consistent quarterback as long as the receiving corps, which loses the top three targets, becomes productive right away.
Defense: The aggressive, attacking approach didn't work under the old regime, and now the new coaching staff will want to play it a bit closer to the vest to start, and then will start to make big plays as everyone figures out their roles. There won't be too many bells and whistles in the basic 4-3, but some chances will need to be taken, and head coach Mark Dantonio is great at adjusting and forcing teams out of their gameplans, after not doing much to generate any pressure in the backfield last year. A pass rusher has to emerge, but the overall potential is there to be better with Otis Wiley and Nehemiah Warrick good safeties to build around, while the linebackers should be one of the team's biggest strengths. The line is the key after a few awful years of doing a lot of nothing.

Oct. 6 – at Illinois
Has there ever been so much of a buzz for an offense that's done absolutely nothing? Juice Williams led the way to the nation's most inefficient passing attack, the O struggled to average 20 points a game, and never, ever came up with a clutch play. Chalk it up to youth, but this year's offense is still insanely young, and getting younger with the best receiver, Arrelious Bean, a true freshman. Even so, all will be fine as long as the starting 11 stays healthy. If injuries strike, things will go in the tank with no one to rely on behind Williams, no solid number two running back behind home-run hitter Rashard Mendenhall, and little developed depth behind an average line with four starters returning.
Defense: The defense never got any credit for a not-that-bad season. It was good at not giving up long drives or tons of yards, but it never, ever, ever came through with a key stop. How strange was the Illini D? It was 33rd in the nation allowing 310 yards per game, but allowed 26.75 points per game. This was going to be a good defense returning with J Leman tackling everything in sight at middle linebacker and Chris Norwell staring at tackle, and now there's actual talent to get excited about with the addition of mega-star recruits D'Angelo McCray on the line and Martez Wilson at linebacker. It'll be an interesting mix of good senior veterans and more talented underclassmen.

Oct. 13 – at Penn State
Offense: Known for being button-down conservative, now it's time for Penn State to open the offense up. At least, that's what it has to do to play to the team's strengths. The receiving corps has the potential to be the best in the league with three great targets in Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, and an all-star-to-be in tight end Andrew Quarless. If senior quarterback Anthony Morelli is consistent and gets the ball to his speedy receivers deep, the passing game will be fantastic. The line, despite the loss of Levi Brown, will be excellent with the expected emergence of tackles Dennis Landolt and Gerald Cadogan, but the real question mark will be running back Austin Scott. The one time star recruit Austin Scott has to finally show he can be the workhorse for the running game. If not. it'll be throw, throw and throw some more.
Defense: As always, the defense will revolve around the linebackers. Paul Posluszny might be gone, but Dan Connor, who'll take over in the middle, could turn into a better all-around playmaker, and Sean Lee will be an All-Big Ten performer. The line doesn't have much experience with only one starter returning, but there's plenty of promise on the inside in beefy tackles Phil Taylor and Abe Koroma. The secondary will be stellar if Anthony Scirrotto gets past his off-the-field legal troubles. If not, corner Justin King and safety Tony Davis, who moves over from corner, will keep the pass defense from sliding after a good 2006.

Oct. 20 - Northern Illinois
Offense: New offensive coordinator Roy Wittke will put his stamp on the attack early on with more passing plays, more variety, and more funky motions and formations. That'll all mean more from the passing game, and while it wasn't ignored last year, it was mostly used when Garrett Wolfe was either tired or shut down. Six starters return, but this is still a young group with only two seniors on the depth chart. The line was a problem this spring, but it's very big with the potential to be great ... next year. There will be a steady rotation of backs, led mostly by Montell Clanton and Justin Anderson, and more passes spread around, with Britt Davis the number one target. Dan Nicholson has to be a steady leader of the show.
Defense: The NIU defense is steady with several good, sound players, but for all the quickness and all the athleticism, there weren't nearly enough big plays, not enough production from the secondary, and a good, but not great, year against the run. While the corners will be better, expect more of the same from the front seven; for good and bad. End Larry English and tackle Craig Rusch will be regulars in the backfield. This won't be the nation's 90th ranked defense again, and it'll do a good job of bending, but not breaking.

Oct. 27 - Indiana
Offense: The IU spread offense has the pieces in place with rising star quarterback Kellen Lewis about to come into his own as a leader, and a good receiving corps to put up big numbers, led by James Hardy. There's speed at running back, but Marcus Thigpen and Demetrius McCray have to be more productive. The X factor is the line, which the late Terry Hoeppner did a great job of putting together in the 2006 recruiting class. Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon are just two who should upgrade the front.
Defense: The IU defense has struggled over the last few years to slow anyone down, but now the youth movement should produce results. The goal is to bend but not break, and now there has to be less breaking. It's still a young overall group, but there's experience and potential, especially at corner where Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors should be among the Big Ten's best. There's little proven pass rush up front, while the linebacking corps is small and quick by design.

Nov. 3 – at Ohio State
Offense: You don't get better after losing Ted Ginn, Anthony Gonzalez, Antonio Pittman, and, oh yeah, some quarterback who won a Heisman and owned Michigan. While many will predict doom and gloom, the offense might crank out close to as many yards as last year when it was 26th in the nation as long as Chris Wells holds up and becomes the running back everyone's expecting him to be, and new starting quarterback Todd Boeckman is merely above average. The receiving corps is talented, but untested, while there's plenty of reason to be excited about a line that'll field one of the best starting fives in the nation. Tackles Alex Boone and Kirk Barton and guard Steve Rehring will be first day draft picks. Welcome back to Tressel ball with more running and fewer shots taken down the field.
Defense: A question mark last year thanks to a ton of turnover, the defense reloaded and should be fantastic as long as the tackles and safeties shine and a second corner emerges on the other side of Malcolm Jenkins. There are stars to build around, with Jenkins, LB James Laurinaitis and end Vernon Gholston among the best in the country, while there are emerging stars, as always around OSU, in like linebackers Larry Grant and Ross Homan and end Lawrence Wilson. Don't expect too many bells and whistles; this D will beat teams by simply being far more athletic.

Nov. 10 - Michigan
Offense: Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord didn't change things up much in his first year, and there aren't going to be a lot of bells and whistles for an attack with all the stars returning. Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham form the best skill trio in America, while tackle Jake Long and quarter Adam Kraus form one of the nation's best left sides. The only issue is depth, which is stunning undeveloped or a program like Michigan. Of course there are talented prospects waiting in the wings, but there will be major problems if injuries strike early on.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ron English did a fantastic job in his first season sending the dogs loose to attack more than previous Michigan teams. Now the hope will be for overall speed and athleticism to make up for the lack of experience and a few gaping holes. This won't be the nation's number one run defense again, and it won't be fourth in sacks, but it will create plenty of turnovers and force a ton of mistakes. It'll also give up too many big pass plays. The safeties are fine, the linebacking corps won't be an issue, even without David Harris to anchor things anymore, and the line, in time, will grow into a strength. The biggest issue will be at corner, where Morgan Trent isn't a number one lockdown defender, and there are several untested prospects waiting to get their chance to shine.

Nov. 17 – at Minnesota
Offense: New offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and his spread offense might seem like a radical departure for the Gophers, but the pieces are there, for the most part, for the thing to work right away with small, athletic linemen, quick running backs, and big receivers. The one thing missing is a steady quarterback who can hit the open receiver on a regular basis, meaning the Tony Mortensen vs. Adam Weber battle will go on until fall. Basically, the offense will undergo a change to achieve the same rushing results with a less effective passing game.
Defense: What the Gophers lack in talent they'll try to make up for in intensity and experience. For good and bad, ten starters return along with loads of experienced reserves to give hope for a big jump in overall production after finishing 113th in the nation in defense. However, there was a method to the old coaching staff's madness as the D allowed yards, but went for the big play forcing 32 turnovers. The new regime will be far more aggressive and take far more chances; they can do that with a veteran group like this. The linebacking corps will be the strength, while Willie VanDeSteeg and the line should get into the backfield more often. Can the Gophers shut down a power running attack or a high-octane passing game? No and no, but it'll be better in all phases.


Related Stories
Nathaniel Greenbaum Gallery - Outback Bowl
 -by BadgerNation.com  Jan 5, 2008
Neil Ament Gallery - Outback Bowl
 -by BadgerNation.com  Jan 5, 2008
Matt Fleming Gallery - Outback Bowl
 -by BadgerNation.com  Jan 5, 2008

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Wisconsin
[View My HotList]